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About the Norfolk Hunt

 

 

The Norfolk kennels are the oldest kennels in America still in current use. Norfolk fox hunts over country that was opened to the Club through the kindness of landowners, some as long as 100 years ago. The majority of the land Norfolk hunts is located in the Charles River Watershed area (Dover, Medfield, Sherborn, South Natick, Millis, Walpole), as well as in Westport, South Dartmouth, Middleboro and Grafton, Massachusetts. Norfolk's hunting tradition continues today, through the generosity of current landowners. The support and understanding of the people who live in the towns in Norfolk's territory make it possible for the sport to continue and thrive.

Fox hunting is exhilarating and exciting: more than that fox hunting is a way of life. Everybody can participate - children, adults, both young and old. All that is needed is enthusiasm, love of the outdoors, and a horse. Without a horse, the action is still available: spectators can follow the Norfolk Hunt by car or on foot and enjoy the excitement of watching the horses and riders, seeing hounds and listening to their cry.

It takes a great deal of organization to run a successful drag hunt today. To approximate live fox hunting as closely as possible, a scent is laid by a human, "two-legged fox." The scent simulates the path of a live fox, dashing across pastures, circuiting through woodland, often doubling back in close terrain. Hounds on the trail enthusiastically voice the scent and search the terrain to regain the path if they go afield. Hounds slow up as they work out their line; and riders on horseback are able to enjoy a good gallop over fences.

The hounds are carefully trained by the Masters of the Foxhounds, Huntsman and hunt staff. Trained solely for drag hunting, the Norfolk pack of American Foxhounds are bred to produce puppies that perpetuate the best traits for drag hunting, keeping the Huntsman busy throughout the year.

The Field Master is in charge of the riders following the Hunt, so they may enjoy the maximum amount of sport without interfering with the hunting of the hounds. Volunteers are recruited to assist at road crossings to avoid accidents to hounds, horses and the traveling public. The Norfolk Hunt strives to maintain the countryside it uses to further interest in hunting, hounds and all horse sports. Norfolk contributes to the maintenance and protection of over 200 miles of trails and 300 jumps in its hunt country.

Each and evey member of the Norfolk Hunt extends special thanks to the landowners who so generously allow the Hunt through their property. Without the support of landowners, the Club could not carry on the tradition of the sport.

The Norfolk Hunt meets in the spring and fall, on Tuesday and Saturday mornings and some holidays. Hound schoolings take place on Thursdays.

 
 

Norfolk Through the Years

 
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The following brief history of the Norfolk Hunt Club was written by David W. Lewis, Jr., ex MFH, former Master of the Norfolk Hunt Club, and editor and historian for the book, "The Norfolk Hunt Club: 100 Years of Sport."

Norfolk was founded in 1895 as an off-shoot of the old Dedham Polo Club, which was also the predecessor of the Dedham Country & Polo Club. The Dedham Polo Club in itself was founded only in 1887, so the members were fairly new to that sport as well and several of them decided to start group cross-country rides in the off-season... in part, as they put it, "so as not to forget the difficult and noble art of horseback riding."

Actually that is not quite as insignificant as it might at first sound, for it really explains why Norfolk has always been a "drag hunt." The great advantage to a drag hunt, as far as the early Norfolk hunters were concerned, was that you could be sure of a good fast run in a relatively short period of time. This was important because most, not all but most, of the early hunters were businessmen, who simply could not afford to devote the 3,4 or 5 hours necessary for a fox hunt in the middle of the week, when what they really wanted to do was ride. Whatever the hounds may have become in later years... and they became quite a lot... at first they really were nothing more than a colorful adjunct.

Gradually the cross-country rides became more formal and it was decided to follow one person. According to Alan Forbes' wonderful book, "Sport in Norfolk County, "Joseph Balch was selected and the method of procedure was as follows: "We would lead him into a promising country, let him loose in a large field, let out a few yells and then chase him." By 1895 the decision was made to get some hounds and make the rides more like a hunt. Joseph Balch was dispatched to the Meadowbrook Hunt on Long Island, where he is reported to have somewhat startled the Meadowbrook Master by requesting "slow hounds... uniformly slow." Apparently that is just what he got, for again, according to Allan Forbes, when he describes the finish of the first hunt: "First came Joseph Balch on Gladys, turning in his saddle and beckoning the hounds to hurry up. Second: a few tired hounds with their tongues hanging out appeared on the scene. Third: John Magee, first whip, attired and looking very grand in his new pink coat; and Fourth: a jumble of riders, hounds, horses, pigs and cows intermingled.

From these humble beginnings Norfolk soon grew into a very grand hunt indeed. Although the hunt had been using the Dover and Medfield country from the very beginning, in 1901 it moved its headquarters to the present location, with the purchase of the farm of Joe and Mary Wardner of the Dover/Medfield border. Kennels, stables, a huntsman's house and a clubhouse were all built at that time and many of the buildings remain in operation today. Henry G. Vaughan became MFH in 1903 and brought great distinction to the Hunt, remaining in that post until 1933, becoming the most senior MFH in the country and the long-time Secretary-Treasurer, and finally President of the Masters of Foxhounds Association.

It is hard to realize today, but the location of the hunt's property was chosen, at least in partm because of its proximity to the railroad. The men, and in the earliest days it was mostly men, not exclusively but mostly, would come out from Boston on the train, spend the night at the clubhouse, hunt early the next morning and then return to Boston that day in time to work. Those who did not promptly return to Boston were known locally as the "never-sweats."

The era of Mr. Vaughan laid a very firm foundation for Norfolk in the area. Even today most of the country hunted was hunted first by Mr. Vaughan. Numerous families first attracted to the Hunt during his era found they liked the area so much they bought land here and made it their second home. Many moved here permanently and have stayed here for generations. The Club has given many, many people a great deal of fun over the years. Long many it continue to do so!!*

 
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*For those interested in learning more about the history of Norfolk, the book "The Norfolk Hunt: One Hundred Years of Sport" is recommended.

Norfolk Leadership

  Mrs. Carolyn Pope, MFH   csapope@aol.com

Mrs. Carolyn Pope, MFH
csapope@aol.com

  Mr. Dominic W. Cammarata, MFH   Dominic_cammarata@outlook.com

Mr. Dominic W. Cammarata, MFH
Dominic_cammarata@outlook.com

  Mr. Robert Shuman, Associate MFH   robertshuman@mac.com

Mr. Robert Shuman, Associate MFH
robertshuman@mac.com

  Mr. Owen Hughes, MFH  Master Emeritas

Mr. Owen Hughes, MFH
Master Emeritas

  Mrs. Lisa Lewis, President  president@norfolkhunt.com

Mrs. Lisa Lewis, President
president@norfolkhunt.com

  Ms. Sarah R. Monaco, Secretary   secretary@norfolkhunt.com

Ms. Sarah R. Monaco, Secretary
secretary@norfolkhunt.com

 Suzan Bater, Treasurer  treasurer@norfolkhunt.com

Suzan Bater, Treasurer
treasurer@norfolkhunt.com

 

The Kennels

 
 

The Norfolk Hunt kennels are the oldest kennels in America still in current use. The kennel buildings were constructed around 1900, when the Wardner Farm, on Centre Street in Dover, was purchased by the Club. Norfolk's foxhounds were moved from the Dedham Polo Club - where they had been kept since 1896 - to the newly built facility, which continues to be used today.

The layout of the kennels was so well-designed it has changed little since the turn of the twentieth century. The hounds live in three lodges, each of which has a large, attached, outside enclosure. The kennels also include a feeding room, a whelping room, two runs for bitches in heat and a puppy yard. Vents in the ceilings keep the kennels cool in summer, and when closed, warm in winter. A 1911 photo in the book, "The Norfolk Hunt: One Hundred Years of Sport," shows the Norfolk hounds setting out for a hunt towards Centre Street; the kennel building in the background looks just as it does today.


The Role of the Hound

Foxhounds are a core element of any Hunt Club and watching the hounds work is the key to the sport itself. It is important to understand, foxhunting is a sport in which a rider uses a horse to keep up with, and observe, the hounds at work. Foxhounds have been bred for many centuries to hunt by scent, their noses have been refined to a point that they should be able to discern the trail of one fox from that of another. Good foxhounds can stick to the scent of the fox they are hunting, even if it crosses the path of a different fox. The Norfolk Hunt's hound pedigrees can all be traced to the beginning of North American foxhunting.  

Norfolk keeps about 25 hounds that hunt regularly, as well as a few older hounds who have finished their working life. The Club usually breeds one litter of puppies every year. Tradition dictates puppies are named using their mother's initial letter (i.e. Pancake, Pumpkin, Paula). Norfolk's hound puppies begin exercising with the adult hounds as soon as they are of comparable size -- about 4 months old—and start to go hunting at about 12 to 14 months of age.  

Until 1932, Norfolk hunted artificial scent for the main part of the season. The Hunt then traveled to Cape Cod and hunted live foxes during the first week of December. For many decades, Norfolk has used only artificial scent, so routes can be carefully planned to effectively use the hunt country and avoid busy roads and developments.  

Norfolk's foxhounds are exercised daily, walking out with people on foot. The hounds hunt three days a week during the season—approximately three months in the fall and one month in the spring -- with riders following on horseback.

 

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  Photo Credit Ruth Baltopoulos

Photo Credit Ruth Baltopoulos

Contact The Stable

    Winters Run Farm at the Norfolk Hunt Stables
    Cindy Cleaves, Manager
    181 Centre Street, Dover, MA 02030
    Phone: (508) 361-6197
    Email: wintersrunfarm@verizon.net

     

    The Stables

    The Norfolk Hunt stables, located on Centre Street in Dover, next to the Norfolk Hunt Kennels, has been serving the Hunt and local riders since 1902. The stables were originally constructed by the Norfolk Hunt Club, when the Club purchased the Wardner Farm property, moving kennels and stabling from the Dedham Polo and Country Club.

    The stables were originally intended to house horses used solely for foxhunting. Club members and guests would board their horses for the season, the year, or ship-in for a particular hunt, while they stayed at the old Norfolk Hunt Clubhouse. Today, members of the Hunt continue to board their horses at the stables, and are accompanied by other boarders who enjoy the local trail system and the various amenities available at the stables. Norfolk Hunt Club member Cindy Cleaves is the manager of the Norfolk Hunt stables.

    The stables, paddocks and ring are located in the heart of Norfolk's country - the location is a trail riders dream. From the property, riders have access to Norfolk's extensive trail network through Dover, Medfield and Sherborn.

    For those who want to keep their horse(s) in the heart of hunt country, the Norfolk Hunt stables feature:

    • Full service boarding facility
    • All day turnout
    • Exceptional care tailored to each horse
    • Inside wash stall with hot and cold water
    • Heated tack room with bathroom and washer/dryer
    • Outdoor Riding Ring 80x190
    • Direct access to the extensive trail system. From the stables, ride out in any direction to a favorite destination, the NHC Steeplechase course, Channing Pond, Rocky Woods and more!

     

    The Steeplechase Course

    The Norfolk Hunt Steeplechase Course, affectionately known as "The Racecourse," is located at 240 North Street in Medfield, Massachusetts. The property is the jewel in the crown of the land the Norfolk Hunt is privileged to use. The fifty-acre space is comprised of flat surfaces, rolling hills, trails, open fields and wooded areas, many of which feature traditional foxhunting obstacles, including, stonewalls, banks, brush jumps, coops, hogbacks, cordwood, and more. The Steeplechase Course is home to many of Norfolk's events including fox hunts, hound schoolings, foxhunting clinics, The Norfolk Hunt Horse Show, Polo In the Country, the Norfolk Hunt Field Hunter Show, Norfolk Hunt Derby Cross and the Norfolk Hunter Trials, among others. Norfolk's traditional Thanksgiving Hunt departs from the Steeplechase Course each year.

    The Norfolk Hunt Steeplechase Course is part of the Wardner Farm Trust property, which is maintained and managed by the Norfolk Hunt Club. The land was acquired by the Wardner Farm Trust for the Club's use in 1927, at which time it was home to hound schoolings, steeplechase races and other equine events.

     
     
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    friends of the steeplechase course

    Become a Friend of the Steeplechase Course and help defray the expenses associated with managing and maintaining this special property.

    Funds received from Friends of the Steeplechase Course will be used to: pay property taxes; lime, fertilize and mow fields; clear trails of brush, branches and downed trees; build and maintain jumps, and other expenses related to the land.

    To make a donation, please fill out the pledge form:

     Photo Credit Ruth Baltopoulos

    contact information

    For information regarding the Norfolk Hunt Steeplechase Course, to receive permission to use the Steeplechase Course (please ask at least one to two days in advance), to report damage to the land or jumps, or to report inappropriate behavior at the site, please contact:

    Soo Billings
    soogould@comcast.net

    and

    Lisa Lewis
    president@norfolkhunt.com

     
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    RUles and waiver

    Please mail signed waivers to:

    Norfolk Hunt Club
    P.O. Box 242
    Dover, MA 02030

    Or, place signed waiver in the mailbox at 243 North Street, which is directly across from the entrance to the Steeplechase Course.


     

    Norfolk Hunt Pony Club

     Photo Credit Ruth Baltopolous

    Photo Credit Ruth Baltopolous

    The Norfolk Hunt Pony Club (NHPC) strives to bring young horse lovers together to develop their horsemanship skills, learn teamwork, and enjoy a real sense of camaraderie! A Pony Clubber's education will come from a broad range of professionals and upper level Pony Club members and will encompass ALL aspects of horsemanship—from care and management to riding.

    Pony Clubbers are encouraged to work their way through the nine stages of the progressive Standards of Proficiency, which test knowledge and riding ability. Pony Clubbers who attain the B, H-A, and A rating levels meet standards of competency that are recognized throughout the horse world!

    Although owning a horse or pony is not required, the Norfolk Hunt Pony Club strongly suggests that members have regular access to an appropriate mount to use in Pony Club activities. NHPC does NOT provide mounts for its members.

     

    This club meets approximately once or twice each month, often with breaks in summer and during winter holidays. Some meetings revolve around unmounted horse management skills, some will be mounted lessons, and others will address skills needed for a variety of Pony Club sponsored competitions (rallies) in which participation is entirely OPTIONAL. (The main focus of Pony Club is exposure to situations that will produce a knowledgeable, sensitive, and well-rounded horseman, thus Pony Club competitions are designed to TEACH more than judge.)

    The Norfolk Hunt Pony Club is one of 10 member clubs of the Southeastern New England Region of the United States Pony Clubs, Inc. Pony Club is one of the leading junior equestrian organizations in the world, represented throughout 30 countries! The United States has over 600 individual Clubs spread throughout 48 states and the Virgin Islands, with more than 12,000 members. Programs are offered at NHPC in dressage, eventing, show jumping, mounted games, quiz, and foxhunting. During "unmounted" meetings members learn about feeding, shoeing, veterinary care, and other areas of horse management.